Hey! Glad you could make it.
I’m just talking with a hot potential client on Skype. Bear with me and listen in for a moment…
ME: Yep, I’m available from the first of the month.
CLIENT: Great, and how much do you charge?
ME: For this project it’ll be $400 per week… Or, you know, I could probably make it $300…
Go ahead. Tap me on the shoulder. Tell me I’m an idiot. Stop me.
I wish somebody had.
That conversation actually happened last summer, and my pathetic negotiation fail cost me $100 per week for 3 months. That’s more than $1200, and I gave it up for no reason at all.
What went wrong?
Here’s how you can avoid falling into the errors I made that day:
Screw-Up #1: Pricing On the Spot
You don’t have to quote a price as soon as a potential client asks your rate.
Take the time to make a considered calculation of your fees.
Make sure you’ve gathered all the information you need, then tell your prospect you’ll call them back or send them a proposal by email.
In this conversation with my client, I’d already got all the details of the project and I knew how much to charge: $200 per post for 2 posts a week is $400 per week. But I could still have given myself time to compose a clear, confident proposal instead of blurting it out right away.
Even if you’ve got a good idea of the rate you want, remember that you need to manage your whole portfolio of current and upcoming projects, not just this one gig. Take into account your other commitments and your revenue from existing clients, then figure out
- how much time you can commit to this project, and
- how much you need to charge to make it worth doing.
Screw-Up #2: Precise Pricing
You might think your potential client wants to hear one precise figure from you when they ask your fees. Nope. It’s totally fine to quote a price range, or a minimum price, if you’re not ready to pin down your exact fee yet.
What I’ve done with many other clients is to say something like, “For projects like this I usually charge between $100 and $250 per post.”
And heck yes, I wish I’d said that to this client too, so that I could get a better handle on his expectations. What’s worse is that after quoting a precise fee, I fell victim to the worst negotiation mistake of all…
Screw-Up #3: Fear of Your Own Value
Afraid that your potential clients will back off, or hang up on you, when they hear your rates? You’re not the only one. A year ago, I’d just raised my rates to more accurately reflect the value of my blogging services, and I was nervous.
Fear makes you second-guess yourself and undercut the rates you’ve set for your services. That time, I got so panicked that I haggled in my client’s favour!
Then, of course, dropping your prices too much makes you look and feel desperate. I’ve been there.
A few weeks later, though, I’d grown into my new pricing model and learned a priceless lesson: if you’re nervous about what your client thinks of your rates, you’re doing it wrong.
They’re your rates. You choose them and you charge them. Simple.
If a prospect decides they don’t want to pay your rates, they can either make a counter-offer or walk away. Your job is to let them walk if they want to, not to make the counter-offers for them like I did!
The secret is to stop stressing over any one prospect too much. There will always be other projects, so you don’t need to drop your prices to get this one. You’ll be amazed how much confidence you gain in negotiations by saying “Hmm, no thank you.”
Know your value. Feel it. Own it. Never be afraid to say it out loud. If you’re really scared, maybe you should do the woo-woo self-help thing and stand in front of a mirror telling yourself “I’m a 100-dollar-a-post blogger” until you can say it with confidence.
OK, so I’m not good with the woo-woo, but you get my point. Another big mistake almost everyone makes when they’re nervous is the one where your mouth keeps moving and sounds are coming out, but the connection to your brain is patchy.
Screw-Up #4: Doing All the Talking
Silence is not a bad thing in a negotiation. It means, “I’ve said my bit for now and I’m waiting for you to put together your response.” If I’d only stated my price to that client, and then shut the fudge up, I’d be $1200 richer right now.
Make friends with silence. Get comfy in it. Shutting up is a psychological tactic that’s used by everyone from therapists to politicians to performance artists, because it works so damn well.
They say nature abhors a vacuum, which might explain why we feel compelled to say something –anything– to fill a silence. I was silly enough to keep talking and haggle myself out of $1200.
This works whether you’re quoting a rate or waiting to hear one: Carol Tice once got a $200-per-post gig raised to $300 simply by pointing out that it would be rush work… and then waiting on a silent phone line… until the client offered the extra $100 per post of their own accord.
Silence just works. Try it and see.
This week, there’s homework –and the chance to win a mystery prize worth $60 to help you negotiate your freelance blogging rates like a pro.
Use the comments box to share the worst mistake you’ve ever made in price negotiations with a potential client, and what lessons you learned from your experience. I’ll choose one winner on 2nd May. The comment with the greatest insight wins and as always, I’m handing out bonus points for shameless honesty, so let it fly!
[You want to talk screw-ups? The moment I offered a prize for the best comment, my blog comments had a technical hiccup. My testers tell me it’s fixed now, so if you experience any weirdness when you submit your comment please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.]